JERRY GOLDSMITH

Jerry Goldsmith, the legendary composer of great film music, never scored a Lee Marvin film, and as classic film fans, we are less enriched because of it. I say this as the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank and genuinely wish that he had, as it would have been a wonderful marriage of an actor’s persona and a musical entity’s talent.
I should explain in that I am a huge fan of Jerry Goldsmith’s music and given the theme or setting of a project, he excelled even beyond his very talented contemporaries. For example, if a film involved a train as part of the premise and Goldsmith composed the score, the result was breathtaking. Listen to his main themes to the likes of  Von Ryan’s Express (1965), Breakheart Pass (1975) or The Great Train Robbery (1978).  He evokes the the motion of the train, the period the stories takes place and creates a hummable main theme…all at the same time!
With that in mind, I find it very disappointing that director Robert Aldrich failed to hire Goldsmith to score Emperor of the North (1973), choosing instead to go with Frank DeVol. Mostly known for his lighter scores for TV and Doris Day movies, DeVol was also an actor, most notably playing the dour-faced conductor Happy Kyne on “Fernwood 2-Night.”

CD cover of the belated release of Frank DeVol’s score to Emperor of the North.

I doubt if a Jerry Goldsmith score might have saved Emperor from its box-office disappointment, but it would have, at the very least, made for a great opening credit and rousing theme for the fight scene.
Another example is yet another Robert Aldrich film scored by Frank DeVol. Granted, The Dirty Dozen (1967) really didn’t need any help in reaching its classic status and DeVol’s main theme is pretty good. However, his reliance on variations of “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” may have been period correct but lazy composition, in my opinion.

Original DIRTY DOZEN vinyl soundtrack cover featuring Trini Lopez.

Having scored many films with military themes, most notably his Oscar-nominated score for Patton (1970), I think Jerry Goldsmith would have done amazing things with The Dirty Dozen. However, composers, like actors, are often hired based on their working relationship with a a given director, or are typecast based on the film’s subject. In this case, Robert Aldrich almost always went with DeVol, while Goldsmith frequently worked for several other high-profile directors, such as Franklin Schaffner and Joe Dante.
As a huge admirer of Goldsmith’s rich melodic scores, I just think it’s a damn shame that he never composed a rousing score for one of Lee Marvin’s films. In those golden days of rich music film scores, it’s a true pity that we shall never see the likes of Jerry Goldsmith again, nor, for that matter Lee Marvin.

Rare CD cover of the great Jerry Goldsmith conducting some of his best scores. I treasure it!

  • Dwayne Epstein
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MAY 2021 ON TCM

May 2021 on TCM is offering a nice assortment of Lee Marvin films as well as Lee Marvin related films for the diehard and novice fan alike. Unfortunately, the treasures are not on display until the middle of the month and later. However, the line-up is certainly worth waiting for as it includes projects from the earliest part of his lengthy career as well as Marvin inspired projects and films he was offered but ultimately turned down. All of which makes for a wonderful cross section for May 2021 on TCM. Titles and dates are listed below but check local listing for air time. If you want greater detail as to each projects’ importance, there’s always Lee Marvin Point Blank

The Big Heat (1953), Saturday, May 15th: Fritz Lang’s ultra violent crime thriller (at least for 1953) stars Glenn Ford as a tough city cop out to bust up the mob responsible for his wife’s murder.

Debbie (Gloria Grahame) taunts her sadistic boyfriend, Vince Stone (Lee Marvin).


A terrific supporting cast actually steal the show (especially pouty-lipped Gloria Grahame), and that includes a young Lee Marvin as sadistic Vince Stone, dubbed by N.Y. Times critic Vincent Canby as “The Merchant of Menace,” and with good reason! Marvin’s opinion of his director and costars are detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank, as well as a rather unsavory run-in concerning Glenn Ford several years later. 

The Rack (1956), Thursday, May 20th: A showcase for the talents of a young Paul Newman, this Rod Serling & Stewart Stern scripted drama explores the phenomenon of American soldiers consorting with the enemy during the Korea War. Marvin delivers in a small yet essential role in two powerful scenes. An all-star cast enlivens the proceedings with Marvin and Newman reuniting on more equal ground almost two decades later for Pocket Money (1972).

Original ad campaign for THE RACK (1956).


I had not written much about The Rack in my book due to Marvin’s small contribution, but this blog helped me discover a fascinating detail that I would have included had I known about it at the time. Instead, it can be read here

Petulia (1968), Friday, May 21st: Director Richard Lester’s stylized film depicting swinging 1960’s San Francisco was first offered to Marvin who turned it down. In doing so, it opened the door to allow George C. Scott to play the frustrated middle-aged doctor infatuated with the kooky title character played by the luminous Julie Christie. The film is a time capsule

The original psychedelic poster art for PETULIA (1968).


that also includes a wonderful supporting cast, not the least of which is a VERY creepy Richard Chamberlain looking to change his image from the clean-cut Dr. Kildare.

Not only picture Marvin playing the role, but look quick for members of the San Francisco comedy troupe The Committee (Howard Hesseman most notably), The Grateful Dead (A very funny Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh & Bob Weir) as well as Big Brother and The Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin.
   Another film Marvin turned down reportedly without even reading the script gave Scott his greatest success the following year. Any guesses?

Point Blank (1967), Saturday, May 22nd: This seminally influential films, is, as I like to call it, the first arthouse action film. What can be said about this neo-noir cult clasic that hasn’t been said already by yours truly and countless others?

Point Blank, 1967




John Boorman’s vastly original style still packs a wallop due largely to star Lee Marvin’s haunting performance.


Again, a veteran supporting cast keeps the film watchable, along with the surrealistic execution presented in muted colors, trippy sound, innovative editing and photography. At the end of the day it’s still Lee Marvin one recalls long after the film is done. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a surprise. If you have seen it, see it again. As with all classics, there’s always more to experience with each viewing.


Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Tuesday, May 25th: Once again, a stylized 1960s film, this time strangely directed by the legendary John Huston and starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. 

Original poster for Reflections in a Golden Eye.


The basic premise is easy to describe but the characters and execution certainly are not. Brando is a southern military officer unhappily married to shrewish Elizabeth Taylor, who is carrying on an affair with docile Brian Keith, who is unhappily married to fragile Julie Harris. Along for the strange proceedings is Robert Forster making his film debut as a young recruit who pines for Taylor. Hence the premise.
   As for the execution, it’s all shot in a strange and sickly sepia tone and the character interactions go beyond bizarre, especially Brando. It’s all based on an equally bizarre novel by Carson McCullers. its inclusion here is based on the fact that Marvin was offered the Brando role but ultimately turned it down. Taylor had accepted the role as a chance to help her close friend, Montgomery Clift, who died before he could play the part. Longtime Clift rival Brando came aboard and the entire production is an acquired taste. I found the film rather mesmerizing, even more so if you imagine Lee Marvin in the role. After all, he did say, this.

The Devils Brigade (1968), & Kelly’s Heroes (1970) both Sunday, May 30th: Here are two films that applied 1960s sensibilities to the genre of WWII action films in the wake of the immense popularity of The Dirty Dozen. Although The Devil’s Brigade is not as well known, personally, I like them both, with maybe Brigade, a little bit more.

Original ad art for The Devil’s Brigade not accidentally similiar to the Dirty Dozen.

Allegedly based on a true story, it tells the story of a team of crackerjack Canadian soldiers led by Cliff Robertson, teaming up with a ragtag group of American G.I.s led by Vince “Ben Casey” Edwards all under the command of an over-the-hill William Holden. They even managed to recruit ‘Dozen’ alum Richard Jaeckel in a scene stealing performance as a jackrabbit-like G.I. named Omar. The standout is Claude Akins in a performance to rival John Cassavetes in Dozen. Unfortunately, there’s also an annoying performance by Andrew Prine and plenty of former football players, ala Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen.  
   As for Kelly’s Heroes, Dirty Dozen alumni Donald Sutherland and Telly Savalas along with comedian Don Rickles are the best thing in the movie that sadly toplines a very wooden Clint Eastwood. A former boss and I were once comparing the films and he argued Kelly’s Heroes had a more believable premise of men risking their lives not for glory but for a treasure of Nazi gold. All I can say to that is you be the judge.

The Dirty Dozen (1967), Monday, May 31st: Not the first film with a plot consisting of WWII renegades on a secret mission, but certainly the best.

Poster for THE DIRTY DOZEN, the best of Men on a Mission films in which the genre is defined in the ad.



Even before The Devils’s Brigade and Kelly’s Heroes, there was Roger Corman’s The Secret Invasion (1964) with a similiar theme. All that aside, this “men-on-a-mission” classic puts all the others to shame. TCM has long been a fan of this timeless classic, showing it whenever they can and promoting it as well, as seen here. Not much more to add than that, other than to suggest it certainly is worthy of repeat viewings. 

So, there you have it: May 2021 on TCM for Lee Marvin fans. Things are surely looking up!
• Dwayne Epstein

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MONTE HELLMAN

Monte Hellman, the maverick cult film director at his best in the 1960s and 1970s, passed away recently at the ripe old age of 91. A well written obituary concerning his life and work can be seen here.
Monte Hellman may not seem a likely choice for a blog entry dedicated to the life, career, and legacy of Lee Marvin but there is actually good reason for his inclusion here. Most people do not know that Monte Hellman took over the reigns of the ill-fated Lee Marvin cold war spy triller, Avalanche Express (1979).

Lee Marvin in character as Harry Wargrave, the Monte Hellman completed spy thriller, AVALANCHE EXPRESS.

Consequently, I interviewed Monte Hellman in his home in 1996 and he could not have been nicer, even going so far as making us dinner while we spoke. Most of what he told me went into the book of course but sometimes not everything can fit the narrative. With that in mind, and in tribute to his unsung talent, here exclusively is part of the unused portion of our interview….

Dwayne: I guess the best way to start is to ask you how you got involved in Avalanche Express.
Monte: (Long pause) I had sold a picture to Lorimar. My former attorney, Jack Schwartzman was an executive at Lorimar and they had a problem with the movie in that Mark Robson died before finishing the picture. So, they asked me if I would come in and do the kind of thankless job of finishing the movie.
D: At what point did that take place? Was the film completely done and in post-production or was there a little bit of filming left?
M: No, they had shot 90% of the film.
D: So, it was almost done but not quite.
M: Almost but not quite. Then, what happened was we looked at the footage and decided that there was probably, there were other problems so we actually planned to do quite extensive re-shoot..not re-shoot but shooting of additional material, in addition to what had not been shot. That was eventually cut back from. But I would say we wound up shooting maybe 15% of the picture, as opposed to 10. But the post-production was a major part of the movie as well because there was a lot of special effects.
D: Yeah, with the train going through the mountain passes…
M: Yeah, all the train stuff was..miniature, essentially.
D: You said that there was more problems than you had not anticipated in terms of what was shot..
M: Just that after..we did a kind of a rough assembly and some of the story just didn’t work so well. Some changes were made. One of the things that I did was loop the entire opening sequence that took place in Russia.. All subtitles, thank you. It was actually shot in English and we looped it in Russian with subtitles. It was just because we thought it added a kind of..in reality that’s what they would be speaking. Then they would all speak English when they were out in the middle of the spy world
D:How much of what the original idea of what the film was in production, how much of that was changed by the time the film was done?
M: Oh, I think the basic premise was all, none of that was changed. It was still the same basic movie. We just tried to, I guess add a little bit more tension and..Originally, we had actually planned to go Europe and do some re-shooting there. I went and scouted but didn’t actually re-shoot. Everything we did was shot in Hollywood.
D: Where was the film originally shot? In Switzerland or something?
M: Yeah, I think they shot in Switzerland, Germany, whatever. All over Europe.
D: That’s what it appears to be in the film.
M: Robert Shaw died actually before I got on board, as well.
D: That was my next point.
M: So, we had to..obviously we couldn’t shoot any additionally footage of him but I had to loop his entire performance. Because there were things that we needed from him and we wanted the voice to be consistent. So, we found an actor who was able to do his voice. D: Do you remember who the actor was?
M: I could look it up after we’re finished, if you want [Robert Rietty].  It’s a terrible thing to say but in some ways it actually helped because Shaw had a very strong Irish or whatever his accent was. And not, he never sounded Russian. It’s better to at least lose the accent that he did have, which this guy was able to do.
D: When you got involved on a post-production level, what was the sense of the people who had worked on the film from the very beginning in terms of what took place?
M: Well, [director Mark] Robson was very sick during the shooting of the film. So, I don’t think it was a happy experience for anybody. It was just really arduous and he wasn’t able to give his full power as a director. When I started working with the actors, everybody was cheerful. Nobody seemed to be..the morale was not bad when I took over.
D: What work with the actors did you actually do?
M: Well, we shot the 10% or 15% of the footage that was principle photography and then, besides all the special effects and the miniature work, we did.
D: When Robson died, I don’t know how much of a time span there was between his and Robert Shaw’s’ death but when..
M: I think it was very close.
D: Was it?
M: Yeah.
D: When they both passed away, was it assumed that the film was done and then you had to bring everybody back together again or was it…
M: No, everybody knew that we still had things to shoot.
D: You said that you worked with Lee Marvin for awhile. I didn’t know that.
M: I shot, there were several scenes on a plane I remember.
D: Wasn’t that a sequence towards the end of the film?
M: No, there was one sequence early on..
D: Oh yeah, with Mike Connors.
M: That’s right, that’s right. I shot that scene.
D: What was Lee Marvin like to work with as an actor?
M: Well, I had been warned that he was problematic. That he had a drinking problem. That is was best to get him finished by noon and so forth and so on. I didn’t have any problems with him at all.
D: Do you know if he had been drinking during the shooting at all?
M: I assume that he had been drinking during the other shooting [with Robson]. I didn’t have any problems, though. I didn’t notice that he was under the influence in any way.
D: From the people I’ve spoken too, I get the impression that he couldn’t have reached the level he did in the industry and been drunk all the time.
M: That was my experience, that he was not, that he was a very conscientious actor. He was fun to work with.
D: What kind of things would he bring to a scene as an actor?
M: Just as his star power. I think he was a movie star and he had tremendous ease with what he did. He was just really easy and fun to work with.
D: How did he get along with the other actors?
M: Seemed to be fine. The scene I did, I think he was with Linda Evans and the others, Connors and so forth.
D: It was a pretty eclectic cast. Not a typical Hollywood cast. (Joe Namath, Linda Evans Mike Connors, etc.) What was it like working with this diverse group?
M: I don’t recall that Joe was in that scene. If he was, I don’t remember him. I did work with Maximilian Schell only on his looping. We re-looped his whole performance as well. D: Really? Why was that necessary?

(L-R) Maximillian Schell and Robert Shaw as they appeared in AVALANCHE EXPRESS.

M: Just for consistency. Because he was in a lot of scenes with Shaw I guess where we didn’t want to have one sound…
D: A sound pop or something?
M: Yeah, yeah. So we looped everything of his and also it enabled me to help him with his accent, as well.
D: I know you mentioned a moment ago that it was thankless, but what for you was the working experience like?
M: How did you know that I even worked on it? I don’t take a credit as the director.
D: You don’t take credit but you got screen credit. I’m one of those poor schmucks that watches the entire movie. At the very end, when the credits are done, “The producers wish to thank Monte Hellman,” and I think they also mention Gene Corman.
M: That’s right.
D: Yours and Gene Corman’s name are the very last one mentioned.
M: Yeah, but it’s hard to know what we did, though (Laughs).
D: That’s another reason I wanted to talk to you. I need to know exactly what your input was. Knowing what the project would entail, what made you decide to do it? Was it because of the deal you had made with Lorimar?
M: Well, it was more or less that I had a very friendly relationship with them. It was a chance I had to repay them for something nice they had done for me.
D: It seems, although I’m not familiar with a lot of the films you’ve done, except the westerns you did with Jack Nicholson, it seems a lit bit out of the genre you are used to working with. Was it hard to acclimate your self?
M: Well, to me it wasn’t really that different. I cut my teeth on melodramas and war movies, action/adventure. It was like doing Flight To Fury (1964) again.
D: That makes sense. Had you had a previous working relationship with Gene Corman? M: Yes. He had actually produced the first movie that I directed…
D: I’m trying to remember.
M: (Smiles) You’ll never guess it.. 
D: I want to say something like Monster Beneath The Sea..
M: That’s almost exactly right; Beast From Haunted Cave (1959).
D: I was close.

Monte Hellman as he looked when I met him in 1996. Rest in Peace.

It’s a cliche to say it but cliche’s are borne of truth: Rest in peace Mr. Hellman as we shall not see your like again.

 

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